Do want to increase regular or one-off donations? Perhaps the effects of COVID on other income streams mean you need to improve how your charity approaches Individual Giving.
If so, or if you’d just like ideas to help solve your current challenges, then we hope you’ll find this episode really helpful, because I got the chance to pick the brains of an experienced and very practical fundraiser name Jenny Crabtree from Navigate Fundraising. We discussed five key areas that fundraisers need to solve to get an individual giving programme set up and working.
Thank you SO much to everyone who has been sharing this podcast with colleagues and other charities! I really appreciate your help spreading the word, so we can help as many charities as possible with this free content during this challenging time.
And if you want to get in touch or share this episode, we’d love to hear from you – we’re both on linked in, and on I’m @woods_rob.
If you find this episode helpful, please subscribe to the podcast today, so you don’t miss out on all the other episodes we have planned to help charities raise funds successfully during the pandemic.
Want training, inspiration and support to increase fundraising income? You can find out more about the Major Gifts Mastery Programme; the Corporate Partnerships Mastery Programme or the Individual Giving Mastery Programme by following these links.
Free E-book. If you’d like to know powerful strategies to help you raise funds during the pandemic, then do check out my new free E-book: Power Through The Pandemic – Seven ways to raise money with major donors, corporates and trusts, even now. You can download it for FREE here: brightspotfundraising.co.uk/power
Other episodes for individual giving fundraisers
Episode 40 FIVE ideas to boost Individual Giving results, with Craig Linton
Episode 47 Favourite insights and listens of 2020 – with Rob Woods and Ben Swart
Quote from this episode
‘Have you made it easy for your supporters to respond? The easier you make it, the better your results will be.’
Full Transcript of Episode 52
Hey there folks, welcome to Episode 52 of the Fundraising Bright Spots Podcast. This is the podcast of professional fundraisers who want ideas and a dash of inspiration to help you raise more money and really enjoy your job, especially during the pandemic. In this episode, we’re going to look at the key steps you need to take if you’re going to set up an individual giving program for the first time. And to create the episode, I was delighted to talk to a brilliant fundraiser named Jenny Crabtree from Navigate Fundraising. Jenny has over 15 years experience of fundraising for a broad range of charities. And she talked me through five key ideas to help fundraisers get an individual giving program set up and working. I really enjoyed talking to Jenny and I hope that you find it helpful too. Jenny Crabtree, how are you?
I’m good, thank you. How are you?
Very well, thank you. Just juggling some of the home schooling challenges today. I don’t know if you’ve got the same thing going on at the moment, but my whole life is just that bit more complex at the moment. But thank you so much for making time to do this interview. And in a moment, I’d love to get your ideas, your advice for someone who has been encouraged to set up an individual giving program for their charity for the first time. But just before we get into that, you’re a hugely experienced fundraiser. And in particular, your speciality is in individual giving. I know you’ve been a consultant for several years and you often do interim cover and so on. Your company is called Navigate Fundraising. What’s the gist of how you work?
Yeah. Essentially I offer a range of either consultancy or interim services for different sized charities. I’ve worked with really, really tiny ones and worked with much bigger ones. And it’s really interesting seeing the similarities and differences between the problems that everybody is facing, whether you’re teeny tiny or big, and how you are tackling them. And again, it’s really, really interesting. And the joy of working with so many different charities is being able to help and say, “Someone else over here has tried doing it this way and that worked really well, how about you try that?” Yeah, it’s good.
Yeah. I agree. I love that element of the job I do now is seeing these patterns and paying attention to them and being to spot that pattern of caring for someone else and therefore offer some different approaches because of what we’ve observed in some other charities. And today I’d love to jump in to pick your brains really because in our Bright Spot Members Club, one of the relatively common questions is, our charity is good, x and y kind of fundraising, but we have never quite got round to sorting out an approach to individual giving. Where do I start? And I know this is something that relatively often you’ve helped some small charities do, especially. If there were four or five key things that a listener in that kind of situation should bear in mind and then maybe a tactic or two in each of these five ideas. I’d love to get your view on them. So what might be the starting point in your view, if we need to sort out individual giving for our charity?
Yeah, absolutely without question the first place to start is with your data and databases. Geeky person alert here. Without it it’s just going to go horribly wrong. And so you really, really, really need to get under the skin of it, tackle it, understand it because without to your individual giving program will end up a big fat mess. And I would bet my mortgage on that fact.
Yeah. And it doesn’t, I mean, there are a few people who are wired to really enjoy solving those kinds of problems. And then there’s the rest of us. If a listener is as daunted by that as most mortals, what are your tips? What have you found to help reduce the stress and make it easier to just get started?
The first thing to say is don’t be frightened. You don’t need to be an Excel geek. You don’t need to be a database genius. It helps if you are, but at its simplest, a database is a place where you keep information about your supporters. It doesn’t have to be massive, Salesforce, Raiser’s Edge. There are smaller offerings out there like Donorfy or at its most, most simplest, please at least have an Excel spreadsheet. And that is where you contain your supporter information. And it’s information you probably have on other supporters across the organization. You might hold your major donor details on an Outlook card or in a spreadsheet. All a database is, is a place to store that information, to keep it safe, to enable your communications, and to make sure that you can understand what is going on with your individual giving program. The types of data in there doesn’t need to be complicated and worrying. Again, keep it really simple.
Start with your donor’s name and address. Fairly basic information, nothing too frightening. And that’s okay. Start with things like, have they actually ever given to you or are they just interested in giving to you? This will help you segment your data. Sounds really scary, but it’s really just about creating different groups of people. So you might have a different conversation with somebody who has previously given to somebody who has just expressed a bit of an interest, and you’re not quite sure what it is that will really go on to make them give. That’s segmentation. It’s really not as frightening as some of the terms that I know would get bandied around in database and individual giving. So keep it simple. Don’t be over phased by it and start somewhere because that’s better than nowhere. And as well as having it, you need to set some rules about the types of information in there.
And that makes sure that you comply with GDPR. I couldn’t talk about data and databases without mentioning it. So there we are. It’s up here pretty early. All fundraisers, no matter what your discipline, we all handle data of some quantity. The only difference with individual giving is usually those volumes are a little bit bigger. So get on the ICO website, have a read through all the principles of GDPR. Again, some of the language is a little bit scary, but at its simplest, it’s around what information do you need and don’t you need., Do you need to know their shoe size? No, completely irrelevant but don’t ask for it. How will you collect that information and how will you store it and how long? Why are you keeping records for 25 years for somebody that that relationship is dead and gone in the water. so the principals have got fancy names, but when you really boil them down, they’re very, very simple at the heart of them.
And the purpose of setting rules around them. Again, sounds like a bit of a pain. Why should I bother? But the reason you need to bother is because at the minute it might just be you, but other people might start adding information to the database. And if there aren’t the rules in place as to how you put information in there and what you do with it, you can end up in a real pickle. For example, there’s one charity that I used to work at early in my career. We had a database, but the rules hadn’t been particularly well applied. And I remember doing a legacy mailing and I spoke to our legacy manager who was in charge of the legacy admin side. And I promised him I would not mail any of our legacy pledges. We ran the query on Raiser’s Edge. We pulled our data off. We sent the mailing. All was well.
And then I got a very angry visit from my legacy manager. And I’d mailed a legacy pledger with my lovely legacy mailing. And he was not happy that I had done this. And the supporter understandably had been in touch saying, “Why have I had this communication? You know, all of this stuff.” And then we looked at the database and it’s because the fact he was a legacy pledger was stored in a very random place on the database that it just hadn’t occurred to us to look. And that’s because these rules hadn’t been in place and somebody had put it in there, which is great. But if you’re looking in column a and it’s actually in column z, it’s not really that helpful. So rules are there and rules are needed. So make sure that that’s a good place to start with some basic rules and a basic database.
Great. So Jenny, yes, data must be the place to start. Next key idea. What would that be?
That is around content and stories. Ultimately, the point of having an individual giving database is to be able to communicate with lots of people and ask them to give to your charity. And you’re a fundraiser, you know the way to do this is through stories. It’s exactly the same. It doesn’t matter what you call them. If they’re a story bank, is it fundraising, rocket fuel or gold, individual givers need stories just as much as their colleagues and trusts and major donors, it’s exactly the same. So you know what to do, go out there and make friends with your operational colleagues. Talk to them, find out about the people or the animals that they are helping. The stories they can tell you are literally gold dust and the bits you need are those little flecks of color in there. Those little bits that really bring the story to life.
So I would advise don’t necessarily rely on official case studies that have been sanitized and through 26 rounds of copy edits, get out there, make friends talk to people because individual giving is just the same as any type of fundraising. People to give to people. And the only difference is, we’re asking a lot of people to give to one person. These stories are absolutely critical. The slight difference, I suppose, is you will less likely be telling them face to face as you might be in a major donor relationship. You’ve got to learn how to write these down, either in an email or through some telemarketing. And you need to show the problem that the donor can help solve by giving. And that doesn’t have to be done in a disrespectful way. There’s lots of arguments about individual giving, showing adverts of starving children.
I’ve been there and had those arguments many times, but we have to be able to show the problem because if you can’t show the problem, your donor doesn’t know how they can help. They want to help somebody. And it’s the job of your letter or email to tell them how, the difference that they can make. So there’s a lot that we could cover in here. And there’s some really great sources of information. So if for example, you could look at SOFII, the showcase of fundraising ideas and innovation. I always forget what the double I stands for. There’s lots of individual giving appeals out there in the general public. You are a recipient, I’m quite sure you might already give to charities. Your colleagues might already do. Get them to bring it in, get them to pop it on your desk. Slightly trickier in virtual times I will admit, but have a look at what’s going on in the sector.
And that can give you a really good feel for how people write an individual giving letter. Even though you might not be an expert yourself, have a look through and you’ll see the type of style of writing that comes through. So my last tip would be, don’t get the fear. Overcome the fear. I know lots of people who have researched their story. They know what they want to write. And then they sit down at their computer and they absolutely freeze, or they write something that is just not that good. And what I used to do with somebody who I used to work with, she could tell the story wonderfully, but you put her in front of a laptop and she would tell exactly the same story in a totally different way. I don’t quite know what the psychology was, but something about using her fingers instead of her mouth just led to disaster.
So we ended up recording her telling the story and then typing it down. All the wonderful things she had said, so that can be a really practical way of getting over that fear of writing your story down on paper.
I love that Jenny as a solution to it, because we do just overthink it when we’re writing it down and the more we overthink it, the more everything tightens and we use flowery words and we sound like someone trying to be impressive rather than just someone communicating like a normal person communicating truth. And in fact, on my writing to influence course, we quite deliberately focus on the advice from the brilliant copywriter, George Smith, who was incredibly well-regarded as a fundraiser for charities. And his key thing was look at your writing. Does it sound like someone talking? If not, why not? What I love about your tactic is even before that, you’ve just gone straight to talk, because you can talk and then use, and you might polish it up a bit, but that’s a wonderful way to overcome that. A, overcome that writer’s block so-called and B, have the finished article be more compelling because it sounds as the supporter reads it off the page, their brain will feel more like it’s a conversation between two people, rather than reading some writing that someone has worked hard on.
Absolutely. Yeah, yeah. That’s what we’re trying to achieve.
Hey, it’s Rob. And I just want to jump in really quickly, just in case you’re a corporate fundraiser or a trust or a major donor fundraiser to let you know that we’ve just launched new dates for our mastery programs in major gifts and in corporate partnerships fundraising. We’ve found that these in-depth programs which include master classes and individual coaching and access to all of the courses and support in the Bright Spot Members Club are proving more than ever to fundraisers this during the pandemic.
In fact, if you were at our virtual breakfast clubs last year, you may remember one wonderful fundraiser named Leanne, who attended our corporate mastery program, share how she used things. She learned in that program to raise for large gifts and partnerships totaling more than £90,000 as the pandemic unfolded, which made a huge difference to her small international literacy charity. So if you’re curious about how the Corporate Mastery Program or the Major Gifts Mastery Program would help you to improve high value fundraising results, you can find out more by visiting our website, which is brightspotfundraising.co.uk, and then clicking on the services section to find out more about either the corporate one or the Major Gifts Mastery Program for now, though, back to the interview. As I ask Jenny for the third thing to solve. Fantastic, so we’ve got data we’ve got data and we’ve got content. What would your third key idea be?
So the third thing I would say, and again, it’s not necessarily the most glamorous, is around processes and supporter care and feedback. There’s lots to think about here, but what I would do is start off by putting yourself in your supporter shoes. They just read your really brilliant letter. They feel absolutely compelled and inspired to respond here and now. Have you made that easy for them? Have you told them how to respond? Have you given them a telephone number? Told them what your website is? Even included a donation form in there, because the easier you make it for your supporters to respond, the better your results will be. And you also have to think about your supporters. If they don’t like giving online, don’t just give them a web address because they’re not going to do it.
Some might if they really, really want to, but if they don’t like doing it, then give them a donation form or a telephone number, please, because that’s how they want to respond. And they are the ones responding, not you. Now if you are putting forms in, a really practical thing to do is to actually try filling them in yourself. You are still being your supporter, particularly for any of us who might have all the supporters whose eyesight isn’t quite so good, make sure it’s big enough for them to be able to read it. And for you to be able to fill in all the information that you’re asking them to in there. Physically write it down on your form yourself and see if it is a bit of a squish and you have to write really tiny at the end of the line. And if that’s the case, then lay it out better.
And on that donation form, we’re skipping ahead a little bit, but think about what information you need to ask them for on there. Going back to the point around data and databases. One of the things we said we wanted to know was who is giving. So have you asked them their name and address on the form, or did you just put that bit on the letter and then include a form and forget to put that bit on there again, because otherwise you’re going to end up sat at your desk with 20 cheques and not a clue who they are from, unless you’re a very good detective. So make sure you skip ahead and think that bit through. At the same time, think about how you’re then going to handle those responses. If you’ve asked people to post some cheques and donation forms back to you, are they going to come to your reception?
Do you need to tell your reception team that they’re going to have an influx of envelopes? What if you put a telephone number on there? Who is going to answer it? Is it going to be you, your colleague, do you need to tell people about these calls that are coming in and what you want them to ask people on there? Make sure you can handle that response. And then a bit of being organized that you can do is you’re going to get these responses. That’s going to be brilliant. You’re going to need to thank your supporters just as you would with any other type of giving. So think ahead, get that thank you letter drafted, pre-written. Keep it relevant to what you’ve talked to them about in the letter. Make sure that it’s not just a generic standard, thank you letter that they could have given to anything.
Keep it really relevant. One of my clients that I work with, does an absolutely amazing job of this. And you read the appeal letter and then the thank you letter is so clearly linked. It references the person they’ve talked about in the letter. It doesn’t just say thank you for your donation to our work and sound like a robot. Again, it’s that conversation. It’s what you would say to somebody if you’d had that real life conversation asking for a donation face-to-face. So if, again, if you’re struggling on this, SOFII has got some really good examples of before and after where they’ve taken some quite standard, thank you letters, and really just made some little tweaks and made them so much warmer, so much more grateful for the donation. Those are wonderful. So do you have a look on that because I find that really helpful. And if I’ve got writer’s block, I quite often look at that example just to get my brain in the right space again.
And Jenny what occurs to me is so many of these things, as you hear them, you think, well, of course, I mean, that’s kind of, make sure that the form is big enough. Who do you think I am? Of course I would have done that, but honestly, truly I’ve found there’s an enormous difference between what we think sounds like a sensible idea that we probably have, we don’t have to worry about, but I’m glad Jenny is giving this advice to everyone else. And in practice, taking the plank out of your own eyes, so to speak, being brave enough to really consider some of these sensible suggestions as a checklist, and going back to look at your own letters and your own processes.
And what I have found is it’s very few of us are getting all of this right, perfectly first off. Because you’re in the act of doing the things, you are distracted, and you’re not, even the best of us are not necessarily thinking of the whole process or thinking from the supporters point of view. So beware thinking just because something sounds like an obvious idea, it means that in practice, your charity is currently doing it well.
And the other common pitfall is it might be that you dig out a response form from the past that once upon a time, someone once did an individual giving appeal and you think, Oh, I can just reuse this. Be really, really careful. Because I actually had a client recently who this had happened and the response form wasn’t quite still legal. So things change, data protection statements change over time, going back to data again. Gift Aid statements change over time. Just make sure you are checking every single bit on that form to keep it legal and keep it right and relevant for your charity.
Fantastic. There’s a brilliant book called checklist by Atul Gawande, which is all about the power of checklists. And if I remember right, the most compelling bit of the whole book was early on when they were talking to some, I think it was doctors, and they said, “Do you believe that you personally need a checklist in order to do your job better?” And almost all of them said, “No, no, I’m very good at my job. I’m very professional. I don’t think I need it.” And then when they said, “If you were undergoing an operation, would you insist on being seen by a doctor who brilliant and experienced though they were, did always use a checklist?” And almost all the doctors said, “Yeah. If I was the patient, I would want other people definitely to use checklists.” So again, speaking to this bias we have of overestimating our own thoroughness in relation to the obvious things.
Yeah. I love a checklist. I have lists of everything. So I fully subscribe.
Yes. And I know one of the key modules that you and Craig teach on the Individual Giving Mastery Program is an approach to response forms and that whole process of how being organized about how people stay in touch with you. And I know that people on that program get some really lovely improvements in results by being thorough in that respect. But for now, what would be the fourth area jenny, you think is worth looking at?
The fourth thing. And I think if I was a non individual giver, sat there thinking, how do I do this? It would be around audiences. I don’t have an audience, how do I build one from nothing? And the first thing I would say is you haven’t got nothing. You’ve got some supporters somewhere. So go out and talk to them, find out why they support you. It doesn’t matter if they’re a major donor or a corporate, a trust, it doesn’t matter who they are. They will have a reason for supporting you. So go and find that out. And then whilst you’re talking to them, try and talk to more than one person and try and find out what do they have in common? Is it a shared value? Is it a shared belief in something that they actually believe the thing your charity is tackling is fundamentally wrong and they want to help? Ask them if they would help you find other people to support the charity and how might they think you could do that?
For example, you might be talking to a trustee and you might be an eyecare charity and your trustee might actually be a very well-known optician and run a chain of opticians. So talk to them about, could you put a leaflet on their opticians reception desk? How could you talk to people that they know that are interested in eyecare? And it’s starting to get a little bit ‘major donory’, but it’s around opening that address book and helping you make those contacts to people who might care about the stuff that your charity does too. The other people to talk to would be your service colleagues. What is it that ignites their passion? Why do they get out of bed in the morning and come and do what is often quite a hard and difficult job? You’re looking for that gold nugget, that thing that when they tell their friends down the pub what they do, that light bulb moment of, Oh, I get why she loves her job now.
Because so often when you talk to service colleagues, their passion is incredible. And that’s what you want to try and get across because it might be that there’s something that makes them really angry. There’s a real injustice in life that they think is incredibly unfair. And you know what? If you were to identify what that injustice was and go and tell someone else about it, then that can be incredibly successful. And I know I was at the IoF convention. I think it was probably two years ago now. Yes, because it was in real life. And I saw another charity who’d done exactly that. They talked to their service colleagues they’d found that injustice. And then they had gone and developed a whole suite of Facebook adverts based on that injustice and said, “We think this is wrong. Will you join our campaign to petition about this?”
And they had done, and they’ve got over 100,000 leads which then they’d come up with a whole different way of trying to convert them to financial supporters. So some of them filled in the, I think this is wrong campaign. And then immediately got an ask saying, “Well, we think this is wrong too. Would you help us continuing to tackle this work by becoming a regular donor?” Others had dropped into an email program where you have three or four different emails before that financial ask. Others had fallen into a telemarketing program. They were trying all these different ways to work out when was the right point in that journey to ask someone to become a financial donor. And they had incredible success. I think they got over 800 new regular givers and 500 one-off donors, which is incredible. So find that injustice out there and you could do something similar as well.
The other people to talk to would be your comms colleagues. And it might be that you don’t have a comms team, but who I’m meaning is there people who are in charge of your Facebook, your Instagram, your charity’s social media accounts, because there’s lots of analysis behind the scenes that can help you identify which audiences are already interested in you because that’s a really good starting point. Who is already interested in what you do and how can you then go and find more of them. So that’s what you’re looking for. You’re looking for people who are interested in what you do, who might already support you. And then from there, you can grow that out and go and say, “Well, how do I find other people who were interested in this? Where might they live? What media might they consume? Do they all live next door but one to our services?” And that’s how you can go about starting to build that audience.
And crucially, what I’m hearing is you’re not asking the question, who out there could I ask for money? You’re asking who out there cares? Who out there shares some of our beliefs and values about how the world should be? And where are they? And then that first thing you might do to get their attention, to ask them to put their hand up to want to be interested, isn’t necessarily a financial ask. It’s some way to invite them to get involved with you or look at your website or express an interest. Is that correct?
That’s definitely one way of doing it. And that’s absolutely the example that I gave. Sometimes you can go straight out there with a financial ask first off, and that does work, particularly if there’s a real sense of urgency. I need your £10 because this is something we need to stop and we need to stop now, but I know you don’t always have that sense of urgency. So that, there’s different ways of doing it is the important thing to remember. And the whole testing thing is probably my second mantra. Data would come first obviously. Test it, try it and see, put a direct financial ask on Facebook and see what happens versus a campaigning ask on there because you might not have something to campaign about is the other thing to remember. So you might have to go straight out with some sort of financial ask. Try it and see what works for your charity because there is no hard and fast rule of which is best.
And I guess one of the advantages of this way of fundraising, and for instance with Facebook advertising is if your mindset is right, you can do that test relatively quickly and relatively cheaply compared to how you might approach testing in a different kind of fundraising.
Yeah, absolutely. That is the joy of digital. It is quick, relatively cheap, you can control it, you can turn it on and off really quickly and easily. If it’s working, you can put more budget behind it and it will grow. If it’s not working, it’s not a lot of money to risk. So yeah, it’s a really good, flexible challenge for you to dip your toe in the water and, and have a try and see what happens.
Fantastic. So we’ve looked at data and content and supporter care or processes. And now you’ve been talking about, we need to find those audiences who might care and either build a relationship a little initially, or just go straight with a financial ask. So those are the first four. What would the fifth be?
The fifth thing would be around learning. Test and learn, as I said is absolutely critical. It’s probably the second most important thing I would say. Start small, don’t put the pressure on yourself to go out and run a really successful campaign first time because it’s a lot of pressure and you don’t need that. Set yourself some targets. Start really small. If you haven’t a clue what on earth a target might look like, then again, think simple. It might be as simple as you know what? We’ve got 100 people that we are allowed to mail. There you go. That’s your mailing target, 100 people. Talk to colleagues, there’s often so much sharing that happens in this sector. It’s one of the reasons I love it. Go on the fundraising chat forum and say, “What sort of response rate do people get to an email, to a Facebook ad, to a direct mail appeal?”
You’d be surprised how many people are willing to share. The whole point of testing is around putting a marker down and saying, “You know what? If we did an email to 100 people, we got this response rate. So this many people gave us £10. We’d be really happy.” Try it. You will get real live results off the back of it. They might bear no resemblance to what you thought, because you’ve pretty much estimated, not guessed, estimated what those results might be. But then you’ve got some real results to look at and you can say, “Well, you know what? Last time we mailed 100 people, we actually got this response rate and they gave us £15.75 as an average gift, not £10.” And from there, you can start to build your future predictions with more and more and more accuracy.
Yes. Jenny, thank you so much. At five really sound places to start and lots of really helpful little tactics, doable tactics that we could implement if we’re going to get our individual giving started. I’ve really enjoyed the interview. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas. Until the next time Jenny Crabtree, take care. Bye bye.
Thank you. You’re welcome. Bye-bye
Well, I hope you found Jenny’s ideas helpful. If so, please do remember to subscribe to the podcast today so that you don’t miss out on any of the other episodes we’ve got coming up. For a full transcript and a summary of this episode go to the blog and podcast section of our website, which is brightspotfundraising.co.uk. And if you want to see the full film interview with Jenny, as well as getting access to regular live coaching sessions and workshops from myself and a range of experienced trainers, including Jenny, then why not check out the Bright Spot Members Club.
Our members have been finding our training and inspiration club has proved more valuable than ever since the first lockdown. If you want to find out more or try it for just a month, go here. And thank you so much to everyone who’s been spreading the word about this podcast. I really do appreciate your help. And we’d love to hear what you think about this episode. Jenny and I are both on LinkedIn and on Twitter, I am @woods_rob. Finally, thank you for listening and I wish you the very best of luck with your fundraising today.